The Whisky Lounge is a company that brings the world of whisky to the masses. The company is founder by former Glenmorangie UK Brand Ambassador Eddie Ludlow and is multi faceted. Eddie operates both corporate and consumer whisky tasting events, plus offers a consultation and training service for bars, companies and whisky brands. Perhaps the most well known facet of the company to the wider audience are The Whisky Lounge Whisky Festivals - a series of shows that travel around the UK and that are aimed at attracting a new crowd to the genre of single malts and blended whiskies.
As Eddie puts it, "The Whisky Lounge is dedicated to the evangelism and enjoyment of whisky. Our aim is to preach the whisky word as far and wide as possible; making new friends, whilst giving people who are already converted a place to feel at home".
It was one of these shows that Eddie invited us to last weekend. The 2011 version of The Whisky Lounge's UK tour has taken in places such as Newcastle, Brighton, Liverpool and York to date, and last weekend was the turn of Manchester. The event was held in the central location at the Lowry Hotel, which overlooks one of city's old canals. Having only ever been to whisky shows in London, we were interested to see how the experience was going to be different, if at all. The show was split in to two sections (11am-3pm and then 4pm-8pm) and after an early morning train journey from London, some retail therapy for Karen and some essential lunch, we headed for the show.
The line up of the festival mixed big whisky names such as Glenfiddich and Glenlivet with small, independent distilleries like Kilchoman and Arran, plus the independent bottling companies of Berry Bothers & Rudd and Gordon & MacPhail. It also ran a series of 'master classes' throughout the day and these covered a variety of subjects, with the emphasis on the whisky beginner.
The show gave us a chance to chat with some of our best 'whisky friends' that we have met in the three years that we have been writing Whisky For Everyone - Eddie himself, Lukasz Dynowiak of the Edinburgh Whisky blog who was working on the Inver House stand, Ronnie Routledge from the Glenglassaugh distillery, Colin Dunn of Diageo, Chris Maybin of Compass Box and Michael Morris from Cooley. We thank them all for their time, their continued support for what we are trying to do and for the drams given on the day!
We cannot thank him enough for this and were delighted when he extended a personal invite to us to attend his Kavalan 'master class' at the show. Within the 'master class' the group sampled four expressions of Kavalan and were taken through the production processes, casking strategy and key differences between his whisky and Scotch. Ian's presentation, which was designed to introduce the brand to beginners, was also filled with numerous interesting facts. Our favourite one was that Kavalan gets one million visitors a year - this is 10 times as many as the most popular Scottish distillery (Glenfiddich)!
Kavalan whiskies have won many plaudits in its short life time and is currently only available in China, Taiwan and selected south east Asian cities. But plans are afoot to distribute the brand in the UK and selected European markets, hence this first ever appearance at a European whisky festival. We were also delighted to meet and speak at length to Ian's assistant Joanie Tseng and Dr. Jim Swan, the consultant who has helped Kavalan with their whisky production and selection of casks.
Overall, the show was very well organised and we enjoyed our time very much. Nearly 1,000 people came through the doors - the first 11am-3pm session seemed especially chilled out and the opportunity to speak at length with those on the stands was better than during the second session, which seemed much busier but still maintained a more relaxed feel than most London whisky shows. Our hats go off to Eddie and his team who pulled off a successful event and must have introduced many new whisky brands to the festival goers. Everyone we saw or spoke had enjoyed it greatly.